What is Citizen Science?

The European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) describes it as follows: Citizen science is an ‘umbrella’ term that describes a variety of ways in which the public participate in science. The main characteristics are that: (1) citizens are actively involved in research, in partnership or collaboration with scientists or professionals; and (2) there is a genuine outcome, such as new scientific knowledge, conservation action or policy change. ECSA developed ‘10 principles of citizen science’, which are available in a number of languages. More recently, the citizen science community developed the ‘Characteristics of citizen science’.

Citizen science takes place in diverse fields, including ecology, astronomy, medicine, computer science, history – and many more. And citizen science can happen at a range of different scales – from local projects to continental and global scales, and from short projects to those that occur over decades!

Below you can see an overview of the citizen science projects we were and are involved in.

 

Bugs 2 the rescue

Collaborate with scientists to stop the spread of invasive exotic aquatic plants! Although these plants are often seen as a delight to the eye, some species may cause the loss of native biodiversity. Releasing natural enemies (like herbivore insects) near the invasive species can diminish their abundance. This method is called biological control. It is considered to be an environmentally friendly & cost-effective alternative for managing invasive exotic aquatic plant species. At present, however, there are still too many species for too few scientists and an insufficient amount of data to successfully implement this method. Therefore, we call on you to help us. Examine morphological traits more closely and search for natural enemies by means of standardized vegetation & invertebrate surveys. The citizen science project ‘Bugs 2 the Rescue’ (2020-2022) aims to broaden and enhance our knowledge of invasive alien aquatic plant species and their natural enemies in order to, in the long-term, implement more biological control management programs.

Eye for diabetes

Eye for Diabetes (Oog voor Diabetes, in Dutch) is a citizen science project (2018-2020) that aims to develop a computer model for diagnosing diabetic retinopathy. This eye disease occurs when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. However, one may have diabetic retinopathy without knowing it. This is because the disease often has no symptoms in its early stages. Through a photo of the back of the eye and with the help of computer models to detect abnormalities, diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed much faster and more accurately. In order to train these computer models, based on artificial intelligence, a lot of images had to be analyzed. Therefore, Eye for Diabetes asked for citizens’ help to screen the images of the retina and make various annotations. Based on citizens’ observations, research on this topic can be continued, resulting in a faster detection of diabetic retinopathy!